December 2024

The Temptress

TR TR TR TR Text: Adriana Giuffrida Images: Therese Rawsthorne & Tristan Ceddia

I wouldn’t be lying if I told you that I am quite a girly-girl. I like painting my nails, and getting flowers, and I especially like Therese Rawsthorne’s clothes. Each season I am captivated by her soft colour palettes, mixed with sharp tailoring and sneaky details that are subtle and sexy. I especially love that her clothes are about strong women, created for strong women, but not ignoring the fact that we all have a sensitive side. I was lucky enough to visit Therese’s Sydney studio, and have a talk with her about where her current inspiration is coming from, and who she designs her clothes for.

Adriana Giuffrida: So how many seasons has Therese Rawsthorne been going for now?

Therese Rawsthorne: I’ve done seven seasons now.

AG: And what were you doing before that?

TR: I studied at UTS, then worked for a year, then I went away and lived in London for three years, and while I was there I worked in retail. I was working over there for Issey Miyake, and then I came back. The reason I came back was because I always knew I wanted to do my own stuff. I thought, well I have to just start. I basically worked part-time jobs, and started doing stuff, and just fucked around in my bedroom for a year in my own dream-land, not really understanding how to put it out into the market. Then I thought, “this is not good, I really need to get buyers and get serious about it,” so I took six months off and did a small business course.

AG: How do you go about starting a new range? Do you find you think of a theme, or colours or fabrics?

TR: I guess I just have a general feeling or a mood. This time I just got back from my trip and got quite inspired by the desert and a lot of the colours while I was away; particularly in America. Now I’m just trying to take those loose ideas and put them into more of a form, then really start designing from there. At the moment I’m just gathering my references, I’ve pretty much already chosen my fabrics. It’s kind of weird at the beginning you choose your fabrics and have to make sure you use them, but it’s stage by stage. I work for myself and don’t work for someone else, so it’s quite a loose process. It’s not like I have to report to someone every week, but it’s good and bad because it does mean sometimes you can drift along a bit. I realised this week I was getting myself into a working frenzy, and was thinking, “Oh the holiday’s gone now”.

AG: Where did you go?

TR: We went out to the western rim of the Grand Canyon. It was so good. We did the big cities; but then going out to the desert and seeing the contrast. Going somewhere a bit kooky like Las Vegas and then actually finishing the trip with the desert after being in massive cities the whole time in Europe and the U.S., it just relaxed us. And the driving was great. It wasn’t about getting somewhere, it was about the drive. We had spent the day at the Grand Canyon and were looking at each other, thinking, “I can’t wait to get back in the car, can’t wait to get back in the car”.

AG: What kind of car did you have?

TR: We had a Chevy Silverado.

AG: What’s the inspiration behind the range that’s in store now, ‘The Temptress’? The show that you had at fashion week, you were saying it was all inspired by powerful women?

TR: That seems so long ago now. It’s bizarre how everything moves on so quickly. So that is called ‘The Temptress’. You know, everyone loves their strong women and their idols, but I wanted to think about not only the strength of those characters through history, but also their vulnerability. I think whenever you think of controversial female figures through history, they are always seen as these impenetrable, powerful, man-eating figures. But I reckon they probably still had women’s problems, period pain, confusion about which lover was their favourite. Yet they still had to be the main carers. Women just are by default. So in the collection I had a few quite slick pieces and streamlined and modern pieces, but I always wanted to throw a softness in. So it’s not like a literal interpretation, where you’d say, “It’s inspired by Cleopatra, therefore I have gold winged lines and big shoulders”. To be honest, with the thematics for my collections I’m never usually that themed about it, it will always be a looser thing.

AG: That you visit, rather than let direct you?

TR: Well that’s just a feeling behind it. Unfortunately we live in an age where everyone wants a sound bite and so you almost have to package that inspiration and make it something that is easily understandable and easily articulated. I understand why that is the case, but for me, I am not really that literal. Essentially for me, my collection doesn’t really change that much, it doesn’t do a 360 every season. All the clothes from each season will make sense with what happened before it and what happens next.

AG: Your collections are usually quite feminine, is that something that just comes naturally?

TR: Yeah, I guess I really like the clothes to be really wearable. I love conceptual fashion and avant-garde stuff, and the designers I admire the most would be at that end of the spectrum. But when it comes down to it I don’t want my clothes to be sitting somewhere in a cupboard or on a rail and not getting worn. It’s a lot more satisfying for me if it means something in the daily life of a woman. That is something that has developed for me. When I started I thought I had to be experimental and stuff, and I sort of realised the most rewarding thing for me is when friends say to me that a dress makes them feel a certain way; like it makes them feel really confident, or if they can say “I feel so myself when I’m wearing this”. I think in a way, when I design, if I can get that affirmation when the wearer feels that confidence and affirmation of themself, that is what I find really exciting. I think not everyone can do that either.

AG: Do you ever design with a person in mind, like do you think this is the Therese girl and she would do this?

TR: Yeah definitely. Because you kind of know that you have to put a certain personality in the clothes and that is the personality you attract in a customer. Of course there will always be variance. I always think of my girl as being quite smart and cool, and not too uptight and has her shit together, and is not afraid to do her own thing in life. So that is the mindset. I guess I think about my friends and they are all quite together, but totally flawed. You know, struggling to keep it all together, but at the same time really cool girls, and really smart and funny, and not fashion victims. My friends always whenever they come to see the new range, say “You were thinking of me when you designed this one,” and different seasons will be like more Tessa, or more Alison. It’s quite funny. They really at times recognise themselves when they look at different pieces.

Therese Rawsthorne

Next Article: Hana Shimada – Drawn Out